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Nature’s Designs Are Engineers’ Finds

Nature is a treasure trove of technology.  Though engineers have garnered inspiration from nature since the Wright brothers and before, it seems that in recent years there has been a gold rush to follow nature’s lead. Wet glue:  Worms may not be very inspiring to most people, but Science News reported that scientists at the […]

Your Eye Sees Trouble Before You Do

In slapstick comedy, the fall guy gets the pie in the face when the clown in front of him ducks.  It’s funny because most of us instinctively duck when we see something coming.  But two recent experimental studies are revealing new automated capabilities built into the eye and brain that are quicker and more automatic […]

What Darwin Does to Psychology – And Humanity

“Traits that we may find unsavory are nevertheless also products of our evolutionary history.”  This quote stands out boldly in a call-out from an article by psychologist Jerome H. Barkow (Dalhousie University) in a review of evo-psych (evolutionary psychology) in PNAS.1 Barkow acknowledged controversy about the premise that the evolutionary history of our psyches produces […]

New Recipe for Life: Zinc & Zap

Two scientists are overturning the Miller icon of the origin of life – you know, the illustration in almost every textbook showing sparks zapping gases and amino acids emerging from the goo.  That doesn’t wash any more, claim Armen Mulkidjanian (University of Osnabrueck) and Michael Galperin (U.S. National Institutes of Health).  Instead, Astrobiology Magazine reported, […]

Molecular Machines on Parade

Scientific papers continue to exhibit the exquisite mechanisms in the cell for handling all kinds of situations, through the operation of molecular machines.  Here are a few recent examples from this week’s issue of Nature (Sept 3, 2009). Molecular sieve:  What happens when a cell gets bloated?  Too much water entering a cell can increase […]

Mutation: Not a Bug, a Feature

Evolutionary biologists are sometimes risque with the way they discuss mutations.  They treat them almost like magic wands, able to produce wondrous new organs and functions by accident. Health to them, death to you:  One article on Science Daily discussed a mutation that causes congenital heart disease in humans, but may have been a stepping […]

Milking the Martian Meteorite

One would think everything has been told about ALH 84001, the Martian meteorite that made a splash in 1996 with claims it contained fossils of living organisms.  That claim was essentially discarded in subsequent years.  Its major contribution was giving life to a new science called astrobiology and energizing NASA’s Mars program.  Now, a new […]

Emergence of Genetic Code Touted

Most origin-of-life researchers have acknowledged the extreme improbability of the genetic code arising by chance.  Their approaches to get around this problem have varied considerably since the Miller experiment succeeded in generating a few amino acids.  Despite the celebrations that 1953 experiment generated (05/02/2003), it did not even begin to approach the problem of solving […]

Your Throat Has Tasteful Antennae

Our airways are lined with cells that have beating oars called motile cilia.  Like galley slaves on a Roman ship, they beat in coordinated waves, setting up currents that propel dust and foreign matter out toward the mouth.  Scientists just found out another amazing capability of these motile cilia: they can “taste” toxic chemicals and […]

How the Girl Evolved Fear of Spiders

Today’s Evolutionary Just-So Story is brought to you by New Scientist: “Girls Are Primed to Fear Spiders.”  Once upon a time, while cavemen were out hunting and gathering, the women back home had to learn to avoid dangerous animals.  David Rakison of Carnegie Mellon University put this all into evolutionary terms for the rest of […]

Plants Use Hourglass Mechanism

Plants need to know when to flower and produce seed.  They can read the sunshine, but what about plants living in shade or cloudy conditions?  It turns out they have two mechanisms for telling time: a light meter and an hourglass.  If the light meter doesn’t switch on, the hourglass lets the plant know it […]

Does Evolution Produce Winners?

Referees at UCLA are calling the shots in an unusual sport: the evolution game.  Mammals, birds and fish swept the medals.  The losers?  crocodiles, alligators, and a “living fossil” reptile called the tuatara.  According to the judges, the more the biodiversity, the more a group wins points; the more their species go extinct or remain […]

DNA Translator More Complicated Than Thought

One of the most remarkable molecular machines in your body, the ribosome, is coming to light, nanometer by nanometer, as scientists find new ways to peer into the inner workings of the “black box.”     Science Daily reported on work at Berkeley that has given the clearest imagery yet.  “Ribosomes, which number in the […]

Evolution 2.0: What’s in the Upgrade?

Consider Evolution 1.0.  That was the old biological, Darwinian stuff.  Now, there’s Evolution 2.0 – the evolution of technology.  W. Brian Arthur explained the upgrade package for New Scientist: “On the origin of technologies.”     Arthur is not the first to try to define a law of nature for the origin of technology.  He […]

Twitter the ET Bandwidth Wagon

If you have nothing better to do, send a message to an alien.  Leonard David reported on Space.com that a website in Australia is collecting messages to beam up to a planet named Gliese 581d that is 20.3 light-years away.  Even a Senator who is Australia’s Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research got involved.  […]
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